Democrat Peduto posts insurmountable lead in Pittsburgh mayor's race
By The Tribune-Review
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 5:45 a.m.
City Councilman Bill Peduto cruised toward the mayor's office Tuesday, quickly amassing a colossal lead over his Republican and independent rivals.
Peduto, 49, of Point Breeze, tallied 84 percent of the vote with 97 percent of precincts reporting. Republican Josh Wander, 42, and independent Les Ludwig, 80, both of Squirrel Hill, had 12 percent and 3 percent of the vote, respectively.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl elected not to run for re-election in March. He took office in 2006, after the death of Bob O'Connor. Peduto said Wander called to congratulate him but had not heard from Ravenstahl as of 10:45 p.m.
Frankstown Avenue, outside Peduto's election night party, was alive just before the polls closed with residents and party patrons mixing to watch the George Westinghouse High School Band perform outside the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum.
Band Director Carlos Redman, who moved from Detroit four weeks ago to rebuild the band, said the performance was to encourage voting and let Homewood know Westinghouse High supports the community.
Twelve drummers beat rhythm for eight Golden Ladies of Westinghouse dangers.
“(Peduto) made a good decision doing this in Homewood,” said Raynard Lucas, 14, a Westinghouse ninth-grader and bass drum player. “People think Homewood is a bad place, but that's a stereotype. People shouldn't go by stereotypes.”
Redman said Peduto has been vocally supportive of the band and helped publicize fundraising events that will help the band rebuild. It has 22 members, but Redman said interest is growing.
Voters appeared poised to elect two new faces to Allegheny County Council on Tuesday, though one race remained too close to call late into election night.
Tom Baker, a Ross Republican, declared victory in his bid for the open District 1 seat.
“It's an incredible honor, and I'm very thankful to the voters in District 1,” Baker said, vowing to keep taxes in check and keep jobs in the county.
Baker led Democrat Daniel McClain 51 to 42 percent with 85 percent of precincts reporting.
District 1 covers parts of the North Hills and western suburbs.
Baker, 34, is the chief community affairs officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. He is on the North Hills School District board, a post he must resign to serve on county council, according to the county's home rule charter.
He will replace Matt Drozd, who lost in the Republican primary.
The race for the open District 3 seat remained close, but Republican Ed Kress held a slim lead over Democrat Mary E. Gibson at 52 to 48 percent, with 95 percent of precincts reporting. District 3 includes West Deer and other northeastern suburbs.
Mayor Greg Erosenko won a second term in Monroeville over GOP candidate John Ritter, with 21 of 25 precincts reporting.
“I'm happy for Monroeville,” Erosenko said. “It was close, but a win is a win. I'm not complaining.”
Erosenko, 60, a Democrat, captured 54 percent of the vote to Ritter's 46 percent.
Ritter, 59, ran on a platform of bringing civility to a seven-member council fraught with political quarrels.
Democratic Party favorite Deb Gross won a special election Tuesday to serve the remaining two years of a vacant Pittsburgh City Council seat, receiving 60 percent of the vote with 57 percent of precincts reporting.
Gross, 47, of Highland Park was among five candidates seeking to finish the term of former Councilman Patrick Dowd, who resigned in July to run a North Side nonprofit. She won on a big night for city Democrats, as expected.
“We had a great day,” said Nikki Lu, Gross' spokeswoman. “Deb was out at the polls the entire day, and she's extremely excited to represent the people of the district.”
The late John Ferguson lost the race for treasurer of Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, but just barely, to a write-in candidate.
Ferguson, the town's treasurer for 28 years, was the only person on the ballot. His death on Oct. 7, at 75, occurred too late to remove his name.
He lost by 26 votes, with nearly 4,500 votes cast.
Former Mellon Bank vice president Jack Goldschmidt, 69, mounted a late write-in campaign.
The only contested statewide race remained too close to call Tuesday evening as a Republican attorney from Carlisle held a slight lead over an Allegheny County judge for a spot on the state Superior Court.
With 45 percent of precincts reporting, Vic Stabile was leading Common Pleas Judge Jack McVay Jr., a Democrat from Shadyside, 51 to 49 percent.
Tom Baker of Ross, a Republican who believes county council members should be diligent stewards of the taxpayers' money, leads Democrat Daniel A. McClain Jr. of Ross for the District 1 seat on Allegheny County Council with 31 percent of precincts reporting.
Baker has 49 percent of the vote to McClain's 44 percent. McClain is a fiscally conservative Democrat who believes the spending of taxpayers' money should be scrutinized and audited.
The winner will replace two-term Councilman Matt Drozd, who lost in the Republic primary to Baker.
Democrat Deb Gross led independent Tony Ceoffe in perhaps the most closely watched Pittsburgh City Council race. Gross had 60 percent of the vote to Ceoffe's 26 percent with 10 percent of precincts reporting.
They are vying to replace Patrick Dowd on council in District 7. He resigned this year to lead a North Side nonprofit with two years left in his term.
Ceoffe sued to overturn Gross' endorsement by the Democrats last spring, but a court ruled against him
Councilman Bill Peduto opened an early lead Tuesday night in the race to become Pittsburgh's next mayor.
With 10 percent of precincts reporting, Peduto, 49, a Democrat from Point Breeze, led Republican Josh Wander 84 to 11 percent. Independent Les Ludwig, 80, of Squirrel Hill, had 3 percent.
Wander, 42, of Squirrel Hill spent much of the last six weeks working in Israel. A longshot candidate, he is vying to become the city's first Republican mayor since the Great Depression.
Peduto has served on council since 2002. He defeated former Auditor General Jack Wagner, State Rep. Jake Wheatley and activist AJ Richardson in the primary election for the Democrats' nomination.
Two long check-in tables lined the basement of St. Catherine School on Broadway Avenue in Beechview in the closing hours of Election Day.
Behind those tables were many exhausted workers, along with plenty of voting booths that sat largely empty throughout the day.
“It's been really slow,” Judge of Elections Rose Getty said. “This is probably the worst it has been for a long time.”
One man who did vote, Earl Barker, 77 of Beechview, said that he routinely makes an effort to vote, especially now more than ever.
“Even though I am a Democrat, I just don't like what's happening to our country,” Barker said.
— Kristopher Lancaster, Point Park News Service
Despite roadwork along Brookline Avenue, turnout was slow but steady at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Brookline. In neighboring Beechview, the polling station at Beechview United Presbyterian Church reported higher turnout.
Richard Degener, a judge of elections in Brookline, said attendance has been slower than in past years with 62 voters out of 481 registered turning out by 3:30 p.m. Degener says he expects more to show as people get of work, possibly seeing 120 voters by the end of the day.
In the small church basement of nearby Beechview Presbyterian Church, Judge of Elections Cheryl Beattie said turnout has been higher than she expected. By 4 p.m., 66 of the 300 residents registered had come out.
“They were saying it was going to be slow but it's been good,” she said. “We'll probably get a third instead of the quarter [expected].”
— Lauren Dantella, Point Park News Service
Voters in Crescent, in western Allegheny County, said it's time for change on the township's board of commissioners and the Moon Area School District board.
Mike Tatich, 25, said he turned out to vote for former police Chief Todd Miller, an at-large candidate for one of two open commissioner seats.
“I felt the community didn't treat him right,” he said of Miller, who recently retired as chief. “He's running and I think that's good.”
Voters said they were concerned about the closing of elementary schools and costs of building a new middle school.
— Bob Bauder, Trib Total Media
Poll workers at the Cranberry municipal building said turnout was “very low,” but did not give numbers.
Mike McCarty, 72, of Cranberry, said he only voted because he was driving past while running an errand.
“I thought there might be someone I'd be interested in voting against,” McCarty said.
— Bill Vidonic, Trib Total Media
A boring ballot kept voter turnout low at Shaare Torah on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, election officials said. By 2 p.m., only 66 voters cast ballots at one of the precincts inside the synagogue.
“We'll be lucky to have a hundred, but I hope we can get more than that,” said Judy O'Connor, a judge of elections.
O'Connor, widow of the late mayor, Bob O'Connor, and the mother of city Councilman Corey O'Connor, D-Squirrel Hill, felt voters were cheated by the lack of a competitive race for mayor.
Gary Geller, 46, of Squirrel Hill made sure he voted despite the thin ballot.
“I did my duty. I did my constitutional duty,” Geller said. “People have lost their lives for this.”
— Aaron Aupperlee, Trib Total Media
At the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill, discarded donut boxes lined a waste bin outside the empty meeting room where fewer than 200 people are expected to vote by day's end.
“On a good day during a presidential election, we'll get 300 or more, but not today,” said Kim Wilkes, the judge of election and Polish Hill resident overseeing four voting machines in the 14th District.
Traffic should pick up briefly, Wilkes said, about 6 p.m.
— Megan Harris, Trib Total Media
More than six hours after the polls opened, only about 30 residents of Troy Hill and Washington's Landing had cast their votes at Most Holy Name of Jesus School.
“Turnout is very light,” said David Schultz, 24, who stood in front of the North Side polling place to hand out flyers for the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. “We've seen a good bit of elderly people, but I wish I'd seen more young people.”
He said voters' assumption that Councilman Bill Peduto will win the Mayor's race likely kept turnout low.
“Even Peduto's camp knows they're going to win,” he said.
— Chris Togneri, Trib Total Media
By 1:30 p.m., 45 people had voted at Marshall Middle School in Marshall.
“It's a shame that more people don't take the time to vote in these elections,” said Lynda Wargo, who has worked as election judge at the school for the past 10 years.
There are 1,000 registered voters eligible to vote in the precinct. In the 2012 presidential election, 87 percent voted, Wargo said.
One voter, Art Chillcotte of Marshall, said he was not particularly familiar with any of the candidates.
“I'm one of the uninformed today. This election snuck up on me. I'm voting because it's my patriotic duty,” said Chillcotte, a retired supervisor at a nuclear power plant.
— Rick Wills, Trib Total Media
The gymnasium at the Linden Avenue School houses not one, but two polling places, complete with its own staffs and voting equipment.
But for this quiet Election Day, the extra space and staff may not have been necessary.
Maryann Damick, 88, of Squirrel Hill, is the judge of elections for the 9th District in the 14th Ward. Of the 725 registered voters her in precinct, only 105 had showed up by noon, a number she doesn't expect to see increase.
“We're at 105 total voters now,” Damick said. “So we maybe we'll hit 106?”
— Marc S. Witkin, Point Park News Service
At the Forward Shady Apartments polling place in Squirrel Hill, 52 of 650 registered voters cast their ballots by 11 a.m.
“It's been very light,” said independent Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Les Ludwig outside of John Minadeo Elementary.
Despite the small turnout, there was some excitement.
About 5:15 p.m. Monday, water sprinklers went off near the voting machines, according to Hal Glick, of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee in Squirrel Hill. The machines were not affected, but several ceiling panels were missing and voters had to deal with a soggy floor.
— Andrew Goldstein, Point Park News Service
“Turnout is poor today; we've only had nine people vote,” Judge of Elections Angeline Pappas said at the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire building at 259 McKee Place in Oakland.
Although 20 to 25 percent turnout is expected, inspector Marjory Lake said it is hard to say how many voters are actually registered there.
“They don't delete the names of the deceased from the list (of registered voters),” she said.
That seemed to be the main concern of workers as they rattled off names of deceased friends or neighbors.
— Emily Bastaroli, Point Park News Service
Across the Democrat-strong Fifth Ward running down the spine of the Hill District, a chilly morning and a lack of tight races led to a low turnout, election officials said.
In the 12th District, officials tabulated nine votes by 9:08 a.m. Those who had arrived at the Wesley Center AME Zion Church seemed to strongly support Bill Peduto's campaign for mayor but were divided on a non-binding referendum asking residents whether they supported the push by firefighters and police officers to live outside the city while working for it.
With 393 voters on the rolls, the 12th District long has been considered a bellwether for important city primary races.
“You've got the cold weather, apathy about the races and we already know it's a foregone conclusion with Peduto, “ said the district's Minority Inspector Benjamin Perrin, 60, of the Hill District.
— Carl Prine, Trib Total Media
Voters were trickling in to St. Alexis School in McCandless, with just 62 ballots cast.
“And we think that's a very low turnout,” said Judy Zehr, minority inspector.
One race of note might be the North Allegheny School District board race, which has five candidates vying for four seats with four-year terms and two candidates running for a seat with a two-year term.
A grassroots group, Save NA Schools, formed in 2012 to oppose a proposal to close Peebles Elementary School.
McCandless resident Melissa Korol, 42, said she voted for the school board candidates Save NA Schools endorsed: Ralph J. Pagone, an incumbent, and Scott Russell, Tara Zimmerman Fisher and Kevin Mahler.
— Tory N. Parrish, Trib Total Media
Peggy Berger, 65, of Shadyside, cast her vote for Bill Peduto in his East End home turf, but said she also took care in selecting the judges who made up the majority of her ballot.
“I wouldn't vote for any judges I didn't know,” said Berger, a former parole officer. “The judges I did know, I voted for because I knew they were good and fair.”
Marilyn Weiss, 75, of Shadyside, also voted for Peduto.
“I heard him speak a few years ago, and he had, I felt, a clear vision for the city,” Weiss said.
On the ballot question of whether city employees should be required to be city residents, Weiss said she supported the measure, since they work in the city and “should make good neighbors.”
— Matthew Santoni, Trib Total Media
Forty-two voters had cast ballots at St. Felix Church in Freedom, elections worker Carol Holewski said. The precinct has 859 registered voters.
“We're rocking and rolling,” Holewski said.
Holewski and other workers anticipated about 20 percent of the precinct's voters might cast ballots in Freedom, which has competitive races for borough council and Freedom Area School Board.
William James, 65, of Freedom showed up to vote in shorts, a golf shirt and sandals — despite temperatures in the low 40s.
“There might not be a lot on the ballot, but it's our right to vote. I never miss an election,” said James, a former borough councilman.
— Tom Fontaine, Trib Total Media
Outside the polling place at the former McCleary Elementary School in Upper Lawrenceville, Carol Wells said she was disappointed to learn she was the 28th voter after polls were open for about three hours.
“I vote every election,” Wells said, “but some people just don't care anymore.”
— Melissa Daniels, Trib Total Media
Election officials at the Farmhouse in Highland Park said 68 people had voted, a number they called an average for that time of morning. They were asking voters if they were willing to show an ID, though they aren't required to. Majority inspector Bonnee Wettlaufer said about 75% of voters did show produce an identification.
John Meehan, 74, of Highland Park said he voted for mayoral candidate Bill Peduto and called him a “shoo-in.”
“I liked him in council. He's not a yes man, I'll tell you that. I don't think they'll have to put a GPS on him to find out where he is every day,” he said, referring to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who has largely disappeared from public view.
Meehan also said he was interested in the ballot referendum on whether city police and firefighters should have to maintain residency.
“I have a brother who was a cop. I think they should live where they want,” he said.
— Bill Zlatos, Trib Total Media
In the lobby of McKeesport Alliance Church, the normal hustle and bustle of Election Day mixed seamlessly with the sounds of the preschool class downstairs.
Eighth Ward Judge of Elections Sonnie Cherepko would not have it any other way.
“The church is part of the community,” she said.
Though the 2013 general election holds a large number of uncontested elections, the wards of McKeesport have several important referendums on the ballot, including a question on whether the city's Home Rule Charter should have the title “Councilman” replaced with “Councilperson.”
Cherepko said she expects “around 50 percent” of the ward's registered voters to cast ballots.
— Tony Sonita, Point Park News Service
Dean Jackson, 35, of Bloomfield said the race between Deb Gross and Tony Ceoffe Jr. for a seat on Pittsburgh City Council brought him to the voting booth.
“I was discouraged that Tony split the Democratic Party by running after losing the nomination,” Jackson said. “I'm happy to see that Deb Gross has the support of Bill Peduto. I want to see City Council work better with the mayor. Without the mayor's support, or without council's support, you can only get so much done.”
— Margaret Harding, Trib Total Media
There was no long line to vote at the United Methodist Church in Shadyside. But Carmelita Portugal greeted the voters entering the church's fellowship hall with a warm smile anyway, digging through her file box of voter identification cards and chatting with them.
Portugal, 76, giggled as her fellow poll worker Phyllis Adkins of Shadyside remarked, “ I don't think we'll be very busy today.”
Joe Beacon, 74, of Shadyside, has not missed an election since 1960. Beacon said he hopes that Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto will end the cycle of what he considers to be a corrupt Pittsburgh local government.
— Akasha Chamberlain, Point Park News Service
Thirty-seven voters had cast ballots at King Beaver Apartments in Beaver by about 9 a.m., said elections judge Rebecca Valentine. About 1,200 voters are registered in the precinct, which featured competitive races for borough council and Beaver Area School Board.
“The numbers are pretty regular, surprisingly enough,” Valentine said, alluding to predictions of low turnout. “At this rate, we're on pace to hit about 20 to 25 percent.”
Cindy Anderson, 55, a Beaver transplant from Clearfield County, said, “I just moved here, so I had to do a lot of homework to learn more about the candidates. I think voting is a civic duty.”
— Tom Fontaine, Trib Total Media
Drawn by a special election to fill Patrick Dowd's City Council District 7 seat, voters turned out early at the Teamster's Temple in Lawrenceville. Thirty residents voted within an hour and a half of the polls opening.
“I came out to vote for Deb Gross because I believe in what she stands for,” said Amanda Miller, 31, of Lawrenceville. “She and Bill Peduto were the two candidates I had to vote for.”
Undecided until last week, Tom Gobeliewski Sr., 71, of Lawrenceville said he voted for Tony Ceoffe Jr. because of his work ethic and strong community ties.
“I hear about him working at the park, volunteering his time, helping out the community. I never heard of Deb Gross until this election,” he said.
— Adam Brandolph, Trib Total Media
Heavily favored Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto said he felt “calm” as he arrived to cast his ballot at St. Bede in Point Breeze.
“No. 1, I'll work hard. I've proven that on City Council. I'm not beholden to City Hall or any groups. This is a new day for Pittsburgh.”
Peduto said his supporters were staffing phone banks to help push voters to the polls.
“We're trying to get people out to vote,” he said.
— Bobby Kerlik, Trib Total Media
Voting at Shaare Torah on Murray Avenue, longshot Republican mayoral candidate Josh Wander said nearly a century of one-party rule is not healthy for the city.
“The corruption is well known. We know what's going on in the police department. It's obvious that's why the current mayor is stepping down,” Wander said. “We need someone who is not a career politician.”
He said he thinks he can win despite long odds. “There is no incumbent, and there's low expected turnout,” he said.
— Bobby Kerlik, Trib Total Media
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